Multiple pieces of legislation to help veterans are making their way through Congress. The VET OPP Act wants to improve education and employment programs at the Department of Veterans Affairs, while the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Vets act guarantees benefits for sailors who served during the Vietnam War. As chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) is one of the eminent voices in VA oversight. He told Government Matters that he’s concerned about how the department is implementing this legislation.
“I’m concerned about this pattern with this particular VA, this secretary and this administration. They weren’t very transparent, inviting or welcoming in terms of inviting other voices to the table, when they are doing rulemaking or implementing,” Takano said. “The MISSION Act implementation, for example, we felt shut out during that process. We were nice enough to write a law that gave the VA six months to implement. I’m okay that they’re saying they want to delay the process because they want to get the rulemaking right, but I’m concerned that they are not being very welcoming and include us at the table in a welcoming way, include the VSOs, and that’s the way they will get the rulemaking right, and the procedures right, and implementation I believe will go smoother.”
While Rep. Takano says he has a good relationship with his colleagues on the committee, he had strong words to say to Ranking Member Phil Roe (R-TN). Roe criticized Takano’s response to amendments added during markup, while Takano said that the modifications were tacked on in bad faith.
“It has nothing to do with the bill at hand, which had to do with access to women’s services. They were ruled nongermane by the House Parliamentarian. These were poison pill amendments. They were not offered in good faith. I think it is beneath the ranking member, who I consider a really good man, to play such politics. Had I not kept those amendments from getting on, their own member’s bill would have been impeded,” said Takano. “I want to have as productive a two-year tenure as Chairman Roe did. They passed a lot of legislation on a bipartisan basis. Adding poison pill last amendments to bills that should just sail through committee, we should have only had a 15-minute hearing, this is not the bipartisan spirit this committee enjoyed over the decades.”